UCL: Underperforming Liverpool have task against Rangers

Liverpool, famed for their counter-pressing style, are conceding too many goals in their matches this season, and the players may need to get “back to basics” to tighten the defence and return to their winning ways, manager Juergen Klopp said on Monday. His side have leaked goals this season and kept only two clean sheets in all competitions.

Currently ninth in the Premier League standings after a 3-3 draw against Brighton & Hove Albion, Klopp said they would have to come out of the crisis in a similar way to when they lost several defenders to injuries two seasons ago.

“When you spot a problem and think you have the solution, you expect the solution to be instant and influential, but that’s never the case in football. We’ve conceded similar goals now which have gone through the same gaps.” Klopp told reporters ahead of Tuesday’s Champions League group game against Rangers.

“Defending is an art that worked for us really well for a long time. But with it not working, you realise you have to, go back to the basics. We can’t always start anew. If we can help the boys with ways to defend differently, we have to do that.”

Liverpool have won only three games this season, with Klopp comparing the squad’s crisis in confidence to that of Cristiano Ronaldo, benched by Manchester United when his form tapered off.

“Do you think Cristiano Ronaldo at the moment is at the top of his confidence? It happens to all of us. Lionel Messi last season (at Paris St Germain) — pretty much the same,” Klopp added.

“You have to take a step in the right direction, then when you’re ready, it’s back. We have to be patient again to do the right thing and then we will be fine again.”

Rangers lost both their group games without scoring to sit bottom of Group A, and Klopp expects the Scottish side who lost the Europa League final on penalties last season to be pumped up after Saturday’s 4-0 league victory over Hearts.

Ajax wary of attacking Napoli

Ajax Amsterdam coach Alfred Schreuder is anticipating an attacking approach from Serie A leaders Napoli and is wary of what they might have in store for his side in the Champions League on Tuesday.

Napoli have a 100% record in Group A, resulting in Schreuder’s anticipation, that the visitors look to take the game to their hosts, at the Amsterdam Arena.

“There are now several teams in Italy that are playing attacking and open football. It is no longer the old-fashioned catenaccio,” Schreuder told a news conference on the eve of the match.

“AC Milan play good football; Napoli play fantastic stuff and Inter have been good for years. Liverpool is the big favourite in our group in terms of status, but Napoli comes close in terms of football. They have also brought in fantastic players this summer who are doing well.”

Ajax sit three points behind Napoli, who have beaten both Liverpool and Rangers in their opening group games.

“Napoli play very well together as a team. There is a lot of combination play and they seek to put on a lot of pressure. They also take a lot of risks. We have to be good on the ball. They do have downsides, but there aren’t many. It is not for nothing that they are unbeaten,” added the Ajax coach.

“I have a lot of confidence in my players, although I’m wary of the opponent. Napoli could suit us very well, though. It might be a match of two teams that play offensively.”

Ajax began their campaign with a comfortable 4-0 home win over Rangers but lost one week later at Liverpool.

Injury-marred Bayern to field second string side vs Plzen

Bayern Munich will field a heavily-rotated lineup against Viktoria Plzen in the Champions League, coach Julian Nagelsmann said on Monday with one eye on their crucial Bundesliga clash against Borussia Dortmund this weekend.

Bayern without regulars Joshua Kimmich and Thomas Mueller, who tested positive for COVID-19 over the weekend will also miss the services of the injured duo of Lucas Hernandez and Bouna Sarr.

Nagelsmann’s side, are atop Group C after a perfect start to their Champions League campaign, but the 35-year-old coach is focused on the Bundesliga where the holders are third with 15 points, tied with fourth-placed Dortmund.

“It’s extremely important to win the Champions League game and keep the rhythm for Dortmund. I expect our opponents to defend deep,” Nagelsmann told reporters ahead of Tuesday’s home game against bottom-placed side Plzen.

“In the Bundesliga, we are under even more pressure than in the Champions League. We are still in the situation of having to get points.

“We have to rotate a little bit, but we won’t make wholesale changes. We have options, we could make early changes or adjust the starting 11. We’ll see tomorrow what I decide.”

Nagelsmann said Serge Gnabry, an irregular starter this season, could play while 20-year-old Dutch international Ryan Gravenberch was also an option.

“The important thing for me with Ryan, as with (17-year-old) Mathys Tel, is to see their age and what can be asked of them,” Nagelsmann said.

“Ryan knows the areas he needs to improve, to fit more stably into the structure. It’s possible, that he will start tomorrow as he has made a good impression the past few days. Ryan enjoys my trust as much as anyone else.”

Nagelsmann said winger Kingsley Coman, recovered from a muscle injury, is not ready for the game against Plzen but could be in the squad against Dortmund. He added that Kimmich and Mueller, both asymptomatic, could also play Dortmund if they test negative on Friday.

Confident Brugge ready for Atletico challenge

Club Brugge will be aiming to continue their winning streak in the Champions League when they host Atletico Madrid in Group B on Tuesday with coach Carl Hoefkens warning that the Belgian upstarts can beat anyone on their day.

Brugge sit atop Group B after edging out visitors Bayer Leverkusen 1-0, and thrashing Porto 4-0 while away in two upset results at the start of the group phase.

Hoefkens said a confident approach against Atletico could deliver another positive result and move his side closer to the knockout stages.

“We have to show absolute faith. That wasn’t always the case in the past. You need the right mindset for this competition and we are taking steps in that direction. If we’re having a good day, we can always win, it doesn’t matter who the opponent is.” the coach told a news conference on Monday.

But he warned that Atletico, who beat Porto 2-1 in Madrid but lost 2-0 at Leverkusen, would be a major obstacle.

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